One Apple A Day #680 – demanding situations, choices and freedom

“I suppose the role of character is for the individual to rise to a situation. If it were not for the situation, we would never have heard of him. So that you might say that character is the product of an exceptional demand by the situation upon human ability. I think the ability of the average man could be doubled if it were demanded, if the situation demanded.” — Will Durant

Will Durant was an American historian, philosopher and writer. With his wife, he wrote The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes covering the whole story of humanity. The words opening this post are extracted from an interview in which he shared his thoughts on thoughts on the “Great Men and Women” in history. The heroes, the ones who shaped history and whose lives we study in the hope to become better.

In the same interview, he said that “the hero is a product of a situation rather than the result being a product of the hero. It is demand that brings out the exceptional qualities of man.

I love the idea of the hero as someone cut from a different cloth, with exceptional skills, wit and brilliance. 

However, I know we are all made of the same substance. I know we all have within us the potential to be heroes. And I know that hard times, like the one we are living now, can bring out the hero and the heroine from every man and woman. But it can also bring out the worst, the villain.

What makes the difference is a small choice. The choice of how we want to respond to the challenge.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor E Frankl

One Apple A Day #696- my knowledge game

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.” — Albert Einstein

Sometimes I find myself trapped in the “I don’t know enough” game. It’s a game I play when I have to decide something or when I’m going through an uncomfortable experience.

It is usually triggered by fear or insecurity and fed be the illusion that, by knowing and understanding more, I’ll be able to make the right choice or to find peace. Too often, unfortunately, this game paralyses me. While I’m lost in the game of knowing more, the rest of the world keeps moving forward. 

Knowledge is power. But it’s only when we act that that power manifests in the world. When we don’t act, we are just wasting that power. So, what’s the point in accumulating power, if I miss the opportunity to use it?

Plus, knowledge and experience can quickly become a cage. They set the boundaries of what we can and can not do. Of what is possible. Children are great teachers in this. Because they know very little, they use their imagination to go beyond, explore and grow.

“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” — Albert Einstein

One Apple A Day #687 – a wrong map

Somewhere in Patagonia, January 8th, 2017

Here we are, standing at a crossroad. It has been a long and intense day. We already drove for about 500 km alternating tarmac and gravel. We surely enjoyed more the second one, but it requires more attention, and some tiredness is creeping in.

We’ve been standing here for a few minutes, the engine on. The complete absence of any form of human presence but us is becoming familiar. It’s only us, the signs saying that we should go left staying on the asphalt road. Our map saying that we should go right, on the gravel route. We’ve been following the Ruta40 since the very beginning of our journey. This road is the reason why we are here.

The sign says the Ruta40 is the one on the left. A long straight line of tarmac disappearing in the horizon. However, the map that we brought with us from Italy tells another story. In our map, the Ruta40 is the one going right. A white road disappearing after a few meters behind the brow. 

The shadows are getting longer and longer, and we have to make a choice if we want to get somewhere before it gets dark. The only hint we have to find our next destination, Tonchi’s farm, is to look for an old abandoned horse carriage on the side of the Ruta40. But which one is the right Ruta40?

We have no clues, but we know one thing; we love the gravel.

So, this is it. 

We decide to follow our map.

Two hours later we are almost regretting our choice. Outside is dark, cold and wind. And most of all, there is nothing and nobody anywhere to be seen. 

We are already planning the best way to spend the night in our truck when we see it. The old abandoned horse carriage.

We found it. 

***

What happened next is another story.

Only later we discovered that our map was an old one. To make the Ruta40 straighter and more comfortable to drive, the government swapped the name with another road. So the old and white Ruta40 got a new name. Our map was wrong and no more correct. Yet, it took us exactly where we wanted to go.

That day I learned that If you have clarity of intention, sometimes even a wrong map can lead you to the right place.

One Apple A Day #583 – walk the talk

They say that words create worlds. That’s why it is essential to take care of the quality of our conversations, they are incredibly powerful.

But it’s when our words transform into actions that they realise their full potential. It is through our behaviours that the world we create manifests itself into reality. It is so easy to forget this part.
Words are seductive. Our own in particular. Sometimes we get caught in them, and we forget to act. At least I do.

The other day, I shared some compelling idea with a friend only to realise later that I wasn’t following my own advice.
It was a revealing moment.

So, this morning, I am having an honest conversation with myself.
About the things that I’m not doing.

What world do I really want to create?
Who do I need to be to create that world?
What would that version of me do in that world?

And then do it.

Acting every day as if that world already exists to give it a chance to manifest.

Every choice we make, every word we say, every action we do, we are casting a vote for the world we want to live in, and for the person that we want to become.

One Apple A Day #528 – defining moments

“When a defining moment comes along, you can do one of two things. Define the moment, or let the moment define you. “— from the movie “Tin Cup”.

I don’t remember how I ended up watching this movie years ago. It’s not really Oscar’s material. Probably it was before the “on-demand” era when there weren’t many choices on TV. Anyway, I remember nothing about that movie but that sentence. And it comes back anytime I am, or someone I love is, going through a tough moment.*

I believe that somehow every moment is a defining moment. In the sense that every moment contributes to shaping your identity. Every moment in life we are called to choose how we want to respond to external circumstances. Our choice, as we saw in a previous post, will cast a vote towards the person we want to be.

But some moments are more defining than others. I’m talking about those events that can turn a life upside down. From the positive ones — having a baby, falling in love with someone, or winning the lottery — to the negative ones — losing someone you love, a divorce or a nasty illness.
In those moments, it may feel as if the universe has something against you and it’s easy to feel lost and without any way out or forward your current situation.

But we always have a choice.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” — Viktor Frankl

If you hide from that choice, then it’s highly probable that the moment will define you. But if you choose to own the moment, you can define it and transform it into a growth opportunity.
I’m not saying you can turn things around just because you decide to.
Some situation can’t just be changed or are outside your sphere of control.
But you can decide how you show up.

“Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.” — Viktor Frankl

So, if you are going through a defining moment, you may want to ask yourself “who do I want to be in this situation? What can I change about this situation? What can I change about myself? What opportunities to grow are here for me?”

* I’ve searched the scene on youtube. I believe that when the character, played by Kevin Costner, said that sentence to explain his stubbornness more than to talk about the importance of owning the moment. Though, that statement is still compelling.